People, women especially, can fall into the pattern of looking at themselves in terms of how they measure up to the women they are surrounded by and the images they see on a daily basis. Ever catch yourself wondering why your Map My Run stats don't seem to mirror whatshername's on Facebook? Or tell yourself you should stop spending so much time on Facebook and get to the gym when you see those posts? As women, we tend to be perfectionists. We see where we could improve ourselves and can lose sight of what's going well. You have not failed if the dust bunnies under your couch live to see another day.
Identify your triggers
Everyone has unique triggers for feelings of inadequacy as well particular areas we feel more vulnerable about. Learn what areas are sensitive to you. If all your coworkers are athletes, by comparison you may start to feel guilty about not running frequent 5ks and training rain or shine. Women who have struggled with body image and weight may notice other bodies at the gym, or get triggered when shopping for clothes. Some people are worried about life accomplishments and feel that they should have bought a house/been married/had kids/wrote a book/got that promotion by now when they notice someone else has accomplished one of these things.
Get to the root of the problem and identify core negative beliefs
Often our personal feelings of inadequacy have roots and some are quite deep. You may or may not be ready to explore these potentially painful connections but try to be mindful of them at least. Acknowledge that voice that tells you "should", "ought", and "could have". Notice when they are present, when they are worse or better, when you feel the opposite: capable and confident. Many feelings of inadequacy come from fear of how we will be perceived by others and personal beliefs that we are bad for not doing better. If left unchecked, this type of thinking can be twisted further into taking perceived failures as "proof" of personal shortcomings. Women will notice the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables in the shopping cart of the mom next to them and start second guessing the boxed mac and cheese their two-year-old is shaking and not only will they wonder what the other mom is thinking about their parenting skills, but they begin to doubt their capacity as a parent themselves.
To begin to break these habits down, we have to examine the core beliefs we hold about ourselves. Many believe they are bad or unworthy if they do not meet certain standards. The standards may be set by you yourself, for example, "I should get to the gym every day, no excuses". If you are getting really upset with yourself for not making it to the gym even though you had other errands to run or your feeling overtired, there may be some faulty belief systems to explore. Standards may also be cultural such as: "Are you bikini ready?" And we all know that "bikini ready" implies as sleek and toned midsection free of perceived blemishes. If these messages are internalized and become personal truths they can lead to feeling bad about yourself no matter what you look like. These negative thought patterns and internalized belief systems may be unconscious and run deep. It can be helpful to explore these with an objective person such as a counselor or therapist who is trained to recognize them and can help you develop skills to alter these ways of thinking.
Setting things straight, focus on your strengths
Who are your positive, trustworthy supports who will hold you accountable and be honest with you when you could actually do better but will also call to your attention when you need to be gentle with yourself? Do you have a partner who tells you your body is gorgeous and covers it in kisses? Do you have friends that let you know they see how hard you work to be there for your kids and kick butt at work? Do you have a parent who acknowledges your personal growth? Do you acknowledge these things for yourself? If self-worth and self-esteem are a personal barrier, this may be an area to spend some time. When you catch yourself stuck in unhealthy comparison based thought patterns, try to acknowledge your strengths or successes. Keep a log of your positive accomplishments and resist the temptation to evaluate areas of improvement. Maybe you didn't get the healthiest lunch but you made it to the gym or the house is a bit messy but you got 8 hours of sleep and feel good so it's worth it. When we think positively we feel better and when we feel better we are more likely to do better. There are only so many hours in the day and so much energy in a person. By accepting where we are, and by refusing to identify with shortcomings, room can be made for positivity.
Don't stop seeking growth and change, but examine the possibility that you may be a little hard on yourself. If you truly feel that you could do better and want to push yourself for healthy personal growth, then work on that goal or intention. However, if you feel like you are doing the best you can given your unique set of talents, gifts, challenges, and circumstances, then take a deep breath. Sit with the idea that you'd like to do more if you could but it's not feasible or realistic right now and that's ok. Excessive guilt and shame are good indicators that something is off. Coming to terms with extenuating circumstances can free up guilt tied to negative core beliefs that we "should have done better" when really, things were out of our control. All we can do it the best we can with what we have and accept where we are unable to do more. Once we let go of unattainable goals we can focus on realistic ones.